A sign paid for by the anti-marijuana organization Smart Colorado is seen in Denver on Oct. 23, 2014. (AFP/Getty Images file)

Editorial: Marijuana edibles must be distinguishable, and more controlled

After months of futile meetings, a state task force that was supposed to make recommendations regarding the appearance of edible marijuana products has failed. But this effort should by no means be over. Lawmakers need to step up and act when they convene in January.

The legislature must draft rules for marijuana edibles to make them easily identifiable when outside their packaging — a necessary step to protect people, especially children, from unintended exposure.

If a recognizable industry stamp or sprayed-on color doesn’t differentiate the items from non-marijuana products, then they shouldn’t be sold.

This goes not just for recreational pot, but for medical marijuana as well.

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It is disappointing that a working group of regulators, law enforcement officials, parents and edible-pot manufacturers who had been meeting for months to devise recommendations couldn’t get the job done. But the panel’s gridlock isn’t surprising, considering its makeup.

The industry that has been manufacturing these products has a vested interest in keeping the status quo. And critics have the difficult job of putting the cork back in the bottle.

That’s why the legislature should step in and scale back the everything-goes edible market — a market in which at least one manufacturer is actually buying familiar candies in bulk, infusing them with hash oil and then repackaging them for sale. Current legislation says only the retail market needs stricter standards. But the large medical market needs them, too.

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There is no constitutional provision that says edible marijuana must be available as granola, soda pop or candy bars that look like what children eat without any way to distinguish the difference.

Last month, Children’s Hospital Colorado reported 14 children, most younger than 10, had been admitted to its emergency room in 2014 for accidental edible exposure. And other high-profile incidents, including a student’s death in March after eating edibles, also have led to a call for change.

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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has recommended all edibles other than lozenges and tinctures (also known as liquid drops) be banned, but that proposal went too far. Still, the legislature must put up guardrails on the edibles market.

Naturally, lawmakers will likely face heavy lobbying from a now rich marijuana industry. The fact is edible marijuana should be easily recognizable to anyone for what it is: a drug.

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This story was first published on DenverPost.com